Iran’s ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems to like Michigan football — or at least likes tweeting about it. Over the past week, Ahmadinejad tweeted twice about the sport in the Great Lakes State, offering encouragement to both the University of Michigan and Michigan State. But the hardliner should know that as much as some complain about 7 a.m. Saturday morning pregame parties, football cannot be separated from everything else that these schools stand for — and it’s not just a good work ethic.
On Oct. 16, he tweeted “With a hard work ethic Inshallah the U of M will return to its glory days.” That was in response to a Twitter comment on his post about players kneeling during the national anthem.
With a hard work ethic Inshallah the U of M will return to its glory days.— Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (@Ahmadinejad1956) October 16, 2018
Then, on Saturday, Ahmadinejad tweeted, not as a comment, but on its own, “Watched highlights of the @UMichFootball and @MSU_Football great effort by both teams; as always a hard work ethic pays off.”
Watched highlights of the @UMichFootball and @MSU_Football great effort by both teams; as always a hard work ethic pays off. pic.twitter.com/p9XnUlwkwU— Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (@Ahmadinejad1956) October 21, 2018
As a U of M alumna, I’m all in support of Tweeting good things about Wolverines football — and even Michigan State football (as long as they aren’t facing off against the maize and blue). But it’s strange to see these comments from the ex-Iranian president who had previously banned Twitter during his time in power and is known for cracking down on religious and political dissent.
These tweets are also out of place on his Twitter feed, which otherwise has things like criticism of the United States government, urging followers to not use U.S. dollars, and vague statements against injustice and poverty. Notably, this wasn’t the first time he had tweeted about sports — although on previous occasions it was linked to hot-button news issues and seemed bent on picking at President Trump’s own views on Colin Kaepernick or LeBron James.
The Michigan tweets, however, seemed devoid of politics and perhaps fueled by genuine interest.
Perhaps in his love of Michigan’s football teams — both in Ann Arbor and Lansing — Ahmadinejad might also look at the other things those institutions stand for off the football field. He’d find freedom of expression, critical thinking, protest and, yes, partying pretty high on the list. all things he didn’t seem so keen on promoting in Iran during his time in office. After all, the spectacle of college football does not exist in a vacuum, but is part of American universities — for good or ill.
Those values, not just a good work ethic, are key to American success.